What Is Xanthan Gum? The Benefits and Side Effects of Ingesting It
Xanthan gum is a popular food additive that is used to thicken and stabilize foods.
It is a polysaccharide made from a fermenting process using sugar, bacteria, and usually corn, soy, wheat, or dairy products.
Xanthan gum can be found in many processed foods, such as ice cream, salad dressings, sauces, and bakery products and it is also used as a gluten-free thickening agent.
There are several benefits to ingesting xanthan gum, but there are also some side effects that you need to be aware of before consuming it.
In this article, we will discuss the benefits and side effects of xanthan gum in detail and whether it is safe for you to consume.
What is xanthan gum?
Xanthan gum is a common food additive that's used as a thickener and as an emulsifier, which means it is used to stabilize processed foods.
It's made from fermented sugar, and you'll find it in everything from salad dressings to gluten-free baking in the food industry to being used in the cosmetic industry for the preparation of gels.
There are even some industrial products that have uses for it such as thickening mud when drilling for oil.
Its name comes from the bacteria that ferments the sugar, Xanthomonas campestris. It is also known for its shear-thinning ability, which means that it can make a liquid thinner after being stirred or shaken which is great for products such as salad dressings.
Some people believe that xanthan gum has health benefits, while others worry about its safety. Let's take a closer look at xanthan gum and find out more about this food additive.
What products contain xanthan gum?
Xanthan gum is found in a wide variety of processed foods and personal care products, including:
- Salad dressings
- Ice cream
- Cake mix
- Gluten-free baked goods
- Bakery products
- Medications, such as tablets that slowly break down in your body and eye drops
As noted above, it is also used in the oil industry to thicken the mud around the drill bit so the solids are carried to the surface.
It also allows the solids that have been drilled to stay suspended in fluid once the drilling stops.
For similar reasons, xanthan gum has also been used in concrete that has been poured underwater. It can also be found in adhesives, cleaners, and paints too.
What are the benefits of xanthan gum?
Xanthan gum has many potential health benefits although most need more scientific research to prove its beneficial properties.
Do not use xanthan gum for any medical purposes without consulting your doctor or health care provider first.
The health benefits and potential health benefits of xanthan gum include:
Some research shows that xanthan gum can help relieve constipation, help with the regularity of bowel movements, and make stool softer and larger.
The reason xanthan gum works for constipation is that it helps add water to the stool, which makes it easier to pass.
Other studies have shown xanthan gum's ability to alter your gut's microbiome. More research is needed to confirm the possibility of this beneficial effect.
Xanthan gum has been shown to help lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes when consuming xanthan gum.
It does this by delaying the the digestion of food, which slows down the absorption of glucose, also called blood sugar, into your bloodstream.
Due to the lack of studies, more research needs to be conducted before drawing any conclusions about its ability for use in blood sugar control.
Xanthan gum has also been used to treat people who have difficulty swallowing, also called dysphagia, which is common in the elderly and if you have a neurological disorder.
When xanthan gum is added to liquids, it can make them thicker which may make it easier to swallow thin liquids such as water or milk instead of aspirating them, which is when liquid is inhaled and goes down the wrong tube.
More research needs to be conducted in this area before xanthan gum can be recommended as a treatment for dysphagia.
Xanthan gum has also been shown to help lower cholesterol levels.
One study showed that xanthan gum was able to reduce total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein, also called LDL or "bad" cholesterol, in people with high cholesterol who consumed xanthan gum every day for 23 days.
The results of this study need to be confirmed in much larger and longer studies before xanthan gum can be recommended as a way to lower cholesterol.
Treating dry eye disease
A study showed that xanthan gum was able to increase tear production in people with dry eye disease.
The xanthan gum eye drops were found to be as effective as the artificial tears that are currently used to treat dry eye disease.
More research needs to be conducted before xanthan gum can be recommended as a treatment for dry eye.
Substitute for saliva
In a study of patients with Sjogren syndrome, which is an autoimmune disease where you have difficulty producing tears or saliva, patients found using the food additive xanthan gum as a saliva substitute was beneficial in aiding their dry mouth.
Much larger and more recent studies need to be published before xanthan gum can be recommended as a saliva substitute.
Xanthan gum has also been suggested as a possible weight loss aid. One study showed that xanthan gum was able to reduce hunger and promote fullness after meals.
The participants who consumed xanthan gum may have felt more full due to its ability to slow down the process of your stomach digesting food.
However, more research is needed to verify its beneficial aspects for weight loss.
Are there any side effects to ingesting or using xanthan gum?
Xanthan gum is considered safe for ingestion; however, due to its laxative properties, there are some potential side effects. These adverse effects include:
- Increased number of bowel movements
- Softer stool
- Larger amounts of stool
- Changes to the gut microbiome
There are no known side effects when using xanthan gum on your skin.
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Is there any reason to not ingest xanthan gum?
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding do not ingest xanthan gum due to the lack of research on these groups.
Also, if you are allergic to wheat, corn, dairy products, or soy you need to also avoid xanthan gum unless you know the source as the sugars are typically derived from them.
Due to its laxative properties, if you have any of the following symptoms do not ingest xanthan gum, these symptoms include:
- Hard stools that do not pass easily, also called fecal impaction
- Blockage of your intestines
- Unknown stomach pain
When you take oral medications, do not eat xanthan gum until at least a half-hour to an hour after taking them due to its ability to slow down their absorption.
Also, if you are taking diabetes medications to lower your blood sugar levels or are about to have surgery, do not ingest xanthan gum in large amounts.
If you have any concerns, please speak with your doctor before consuming xanthan gum.
Xanthan gum is a polysaccharide that is typically produced from corn, wheat, soy, or dairy products using a fermentation process.
It is most commonly used as a food additive due to its ability to thicken and stabilize food products and has some other industrial and cosmetic uses as well.
There are potential benefits to xanthan gum, although more research is needed to confirm these benefits.
If you have any more questions or are thinking about taking large amounts of xanthan gum for health reasons, please consult with your doctor or health care provider for medical advice.